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Bryan Harsin returns to Boise State

Beginning on Aug. 3, we're counting down the days until the college football season starts with a look at the 25 most interesting people in the sport. Today we look at Boise State coach Bryan Harsin.

The system worked, there was really no need to question that.

This was the program that had molded Bryan Harsin into a man during his college years when he was playing quarterback.

The same place where he developed into one of the nation's most respected offensive minds, helping build his hometown team into one of the most consistent winners in the country and lending a hand in a pair of unbeaten seasons.

The Boise State way was proven, and maybe nobody knew the blueprint quite as well as Harsin. But that didn't keep some doubts from entering his mind despite all the firsthand evidence that Boise State's approach to business might just be the best thing going as he weighed his future in 2010.

"I think at some point you just say, 'I've done this, I feel this way, I feel so strongly about it, I want to go see if it can work somewhere else,'" Harsin said.

"When those questions popped up, that's when it was like, 'OK, it's time to go do this somewhere else.' At the same time, too, you start to question, is this the best way? It's the only way I've done it, is it the best way?

"But that was the scariest thing we've done because you may never get a chance to come back. If you're wrong, you may not get to come back."

The goal was always to return, and now Harsin is once again in a familiar blue polo, though the space-aged logo on the Broncos helmet sitting next to him might not have been in the rotation when he left for Texas in 2011 at the start of a three-year exchange program to test his beliefs.

Harsin turned a Longhorns offense that ranked 88th in the nation in scoring before his arrival into a top-25 attack by the time he left two years later to take over his own program for the first time at Arkansas State. And his lone season as a head coach was also a successful one, as he guided the Red Wolves to a share of the Sun Belt Conference title and a trip to the GoDaddy.com Bowl.

Any doubts about whether the Boise State way would work were long gone.

"I believe it, I believed it even more so when I left Texas. When I went there, it was like, OK, that even imprinted on me even more how much I believe in what we did at Boise. I carried that to Arkansas State," Harsin said. "There's still a lot that has been said and been done and we will continue to do it that way, because I believe it."

When longtime Broncos coach Chris Petersen left for Washington at the end of last season, Boise State didn't waste much time before quickly bringing Harsin home to replace his old boss. And despite picking up a new trick or two during his time away, the Broncos now have maybe the guy best qualified to take the reins for a program that has been a model of consistency -- and the one least likely to break that mold he helped create.

"I think from an ego standpoint, you can say you want to change it just to change it," Harsin said. "But there are so many things that we've done at Boise that I was a part of that I just believe. So I sat down and just said, 'I believe in this, why would I change this? Why would I even change the way it's written?'"

That doesn't mean there won't be some changes, though they're mostly subtle and aren't likely to show up on the field.


For starters, the Broncos are finally allowed to use social media, and the coaching staff has been just as active in using those platforms to publicize the program. Harsin and his assistants also vowed to have a presence in every high school in Idaho during their "Bronco Blitz" earlier this year, crisscrossing the state to strengthen relationships on their home turf to potentially aid in recruiting. Maybe they are small things, but the Boise State way does appear to have been tweaked a little in Harsin's image.

"I think it's more open," senior wide receiver Matt Miller said. "Coach Harsin is more open about some things, he uses social media a lot more. Coach Petersen didn't get into that kind of stuff, and even with the media being in the facility, it took you guys awhile to even get in there.

"But Coach Harsin welcomes people and he wants them to be part of our brand, part of our program -- especially the state of Idaho. He wants people involved, whereas Coach Peterson was more reserved about stuff."

Some things are untouchable, though, and obviously that famous blue turf isn't going anywhere. Harsin is still fond of the blue-on-blue jerseys, he'll still dial up a few trick plays on offense and also isn't shy about embracing the high expectations that he helped build during his tenure under Petersen.

And while Boise State may no longer be known as BCS busters with the College Football Playoff now in place, Harsin is expecting one more thing to look the same as he blends tradition with his own personal stamp on the program.

"Somebody was going to have to follow Pete if he was going to leave," Harsin said. "That's just how it is, and I have no problem with that. As a matter of fact, I appreciate it because I had a chance to be there with him. [Any differences between us] remain to be seen, you know.

"Hopefully from a winning standpoint, there won't be any."